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Jonathan Fritz / Blog

Richie Havens

The first time I played with Richie Havens, I was blown away by his passionate and powerful stage presence. His voice was fiery and soulful, and his guitar playing was so rhythmic and free. Most of the shows were in the New England area, and we traveled by van, so there was a lot of down time in which I got to know him through hours of spirited conversation. As you can imagine, he was quite cosmic and out there, and, being no stranger to space myself, we would happily get lost in the wonders of the universe. He was a great story teller, and I especially enjoyed when he talked about the scene in Greenwich Village with his friends, who were also icons of his generation, like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. I love his version of "Here comes the sun" and was thrilled when, years later, he would sing it at my wedding on a sunny day in June, much to the delight of my family and friends. His hands were huge and powerful yet graceful and long, filled with big silver rings on each hand. He could bar the guitar with his thumb and still have his fingers free to fret other notes. I have this beautiful shot of Richie's hand holding my son's, when he was just a few months old. Richie was convinced that little children were all knowing aliens from another world, and I wasn't sure what he meant until I had a child of my own. I have never heard anyone strum the guitar the way he did. He was constantly changing gears, and never stayed in one subdivision of time for very long and sounded like a crackling fire or boiling water. When I asked him how he developed this unique rhythmic style, he said he was a frustrated drummer and would express time in a similar way with his right hand. As fierce as he could be onstage, he was even more gentle and peaceful in person. He was especially gracious to his fans and took the time to talk to each one as long as they wished. I soon realized that when you were in public with Richie, you had allow extra time for this as it happened constantly. His posture towards his fans was beautiful as he would bring his hands together in prayer and bow to each one. It always seemed that he was the one paying homage. I am so happy to have known Richie and call him a friend. When I think of his spirit, I put my hands together and bow.

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